Designed for Failure

  It started innocently enough. Eric and Jenny were Christian kids who started going to the movies together, or playing a round of putt-putt golf. But the longer they dated, the more intimate they became -- until finally, they began sleeping together. After they broke up, the pain lasted for years. Their story is told in a book by Joshua Harris called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. "Eric and Jenny probably had good intentions," Harris writes. "But they founded their relationship on our culture's defective attitudes and patterns for romance." These attitudes lead to what Joshua calls "The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating." First, he says, dating leads to intimacy but not necessarily to commitment. When something happens to break the couple up -- such as one member departing for college, the other partner may be devastated. Harris says, "Dating encourages intimacy for the sake of intimacy -- two people getting close... without any real intention of making a long-term commitment." Second, dating tends to skip the "friendship" stage of a relationship. Harris says, dating tends "to move a guy and a girl beyond friendship and towards romance too quickly." Third, dating often mistakes physical passion for love. Passion can distort the young person's perspective and lead to some unwise choices. Fourth, dating isolates couples from other important relationships. Once they become involved, young couples think nothing of sacrificing other friendships, family time, and church activities. Fifth, dating distracts teens from their main responsibility: to prepare for the future. Maintaining a relationship takes a lot of time and energy -- time that is often stolen from developing gifts, going on summer mission trips, or preparing for college. Sixth, dating can cause discontent with God's gift of singleness. Singleness is a season of our lives in which we have tremendous opportunities for growth, learning, and service. But if we spend all that time dating one person after another, we miss its blessings. Seventh, dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating someone's character. As my friend Jim Dobson puts it, dating is designed to hide our flaws, not expose them. That's why young people ought to get to know each other "in the real-life settings of family and friends," says Harris. These seven habits expose the problems with dating -- at least the way our modern culture defines it. Yes, it sounds radical, but Joshua Harris might well be onto something. Pastors ought to be asking kids in their youth groups to read this book. And then ask them to consider the unthinkable: take a different view of dating, at least until they're ready to be serious. Encourage them to go out in groups, and to focus on bearing one another's burdens, and to lift up one another in prayer. This way, they'll avoid the pitfalls of early dating, and they'll prepare themselves for the greatest romantic adventure of all -- a happy and lasting marriage.


Chuck Colson



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